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Working smarter to keep returns simple

Amethyst picks, packs and despatches multichannel and ecommerce orders for a number of leading high street and luxury names. The vast majority of Amethyst’s fulfilment clients have elected to use our returns processing service. We work to tight service levels to process most returns the same day and to make as much stock as possible fit and available for resale as quickly as possible.

The challenge of returns for pure play and multichannel retailers is the requirement to offer convenient options for the end users to deliver unwanted items from their hands to a location where they can be dealt with in a speedy and cost effective manner. In order to solve this, Amethyst starts this by assembling a project team from Account Management, Operations and Information Systems.

The team takes the necessary time to develop a thorough understanding of each client and their business. Once general and business specific circumstances and concerns are identified, we are able to develop the systems and operational processes to effect the right returns processing service. Though perhaps not immediately obvious, the first place to focus on is the quality and accuracy of putaway and picking. If the correct items are not picked and despatched then it can’t be a surprise when they’re returned. Our identification and RF-driven putaway and pick processes ensure consistently high levels of accuracy. The next area to focus on is the packing station. Amethyst works with all our clients to ensure the right packaging specification for their business model, whether quick and good value or time consuming and luxurious.

Customer experience is one of the most important factors for online purchases. We have also developed a simple but comprehensive despatch documentation which enables accuracy and facilitates returns with instructions and peel-off returns labels for the etailers’ preferred returns route/s. Key to good customer service is to prevent the volume of returns backing up even during peak activity. Once a returned item is received at Amethyst, the immediate priority is to capture the customer, order and product information by scanning the documents. The next stage is to identify the items and confirm they agree with the returns documentation. In terms of financial implication to the client, the inspection process is one of the most important. Our experienced operatives use guidelines developed in partnership with each client to check for damage and signs of use. Where hygiene may be an issue, we have developed a way of dealing with returns systematically so the return can be completed promptly as a transaction but remain outside pickable inventory.

The return, along with a reason code, is then communicated to the client’s web platform.

We use specific reason codes to make it easier for the customer and the client. We aid our clients ability to analyse and understand customer service and quality issues. We can run queries for our client to analyse the proportion of returns by reason code. With this analysis we are able to help identify any quality issues and even malicious activity Finally, in order to enable as many items to be resold as possible, a decision is made on what to do with the returned item. It is usually be returned to stock after repackaging and perhaps some light remedial work or maybe returned to the supplier or scrapped. We provide web based management information on all processes and service levels to each of our clients to provide as transparency and to aid customer services. The Amethyst service evolves by a process of continuous improvement. We work in conjunction with clients such as BrandAlley , Internacionale and Agent Provocateur .

The objective is to manage returned items in a way which best serves the end user (ease and speed) and the etailer (stock and sales). We have delivered improved cash flow and customer service to our clients by ensuring most items returned to Amethyst are available to resell in 24 hours or reworked, and we consistently meet or exceed the service levels agreed with our clients.

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